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(The Gear Loop) - Anyone who has had the pleasure of heading out on the water for a paddle will have first had to overcome the sweaty process of pumping-up their SUP or kayak.

Due to the size and volume of modern paddle boards, they inherently need quite a lot of air to perform on the water. Inflating an 11ft board to 16-20psi is no mean feat. Head down to a popular paddling spot at the weekend and the car park will be full of people thrashing away on their manual pumps just to get boards ready for action. 

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The Gear LoopThe best electric pumps: lifestyle photo 4

However, there will also be a handful of people sipping coffee perched on the tailgate of their car as the board magically inflates. 

This isn’t some dark art, as they’ve clearly got their sensible heads on and invested in an electric pump, all specially designed for an inflatable stand up paddle board or kayak.

iRockerThe best electric pumps: lifestyle photo 3

Alas, choosing the best can be a bit of a minefield, as there is a huge range of price and quality available. But we’re here to guide you through it, so you can join the smug coffee quaffers watching over the thrashing manual pumpers. 

The best electric pumps for inflatable paddle boards and kayaks

NixyThe best electric pumps: product photo 5

Nixy Ventus

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Pros

  • 20psi max pressure
  • Pressure can be adjusted in small increments
  • Multitude of adaptors
  • Active cooling means inflating multiple boards is no issue

Cons

  • The hose could be longer
  • Noisy

The Ventus from Nixy is a great fully featured pump that we’ve been really impressed with throughout our testing. It has a maximum pressure of 20psi, which is on the ceiling of what most manufactures recommend their boards and kayaks are inflated to, so you can be sure it’ll be up to the job.

It also comes with a host of different adaptors, so many other things aside from iSUPs can be inflated, such as inflatable beds or kid’s toys. The adaptors come on one loop, so there’s no risk of losing the one you need. 

Pressure can be adjusted in 0.5psi increments and the Ventus will automatically cut-off when the desired pressure is reached. Active cooling means that it doesn’t need to cool down between uses, so multiple boards can be inflated one after another. 

It took around nine minutes to inflate our 11ft board to 18psi, so not the fastest pump on test, but a lot faster and far easier than with a manual counterpart.

Powered by a 12v cigarette socket with a pleasingly long cable, Nixy also offers a battery pack for when it’s not practical to inflate next to the car. This has the juice to inflate three boards before it runs flat.

If a 12v socket isn’t easily accessible, there’s an adaptor with alligator clips to run it directly from a car battery, which might suit some folk better than the socket option.

OutdoormasterThe best electric pumps: product photo 2

Outdoormaster Shark II

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Pros

  • Sturdy construction
  • Inflated test board quickly
  • Long hose 

Cons

  • Needs a 12v socket
  • Lacks alligator clips

The Shark II from Outdoormaster offers many of the same features as the Ventus - a max inflation pressure of 20psi, automated shut-off and a host of adaptors. Along with said adaptors, it comes with a range of O-rings to adjust the depth of the ubiquitous Halkey Roberts valve, so that you can achieve a perfect seal.

The Shark is a sturdy bit of kit, made from hard plastic, it feels like it’ll be able to withstand being thrown in the back of a car for many years without any issues. 

It inflated our test board up to 18psi without issue and like the Ventus, it features active cooling, so can pump up boards one after another. It doesn’t come with any alligator clips though, so you will have to stay near to the car to use the Shark II and Outdoormaster doesn’t offer a battery pack for off-grid inflation.

iRockerThe best electric pumps: product photo 1

iRocker 12V Electric Pump

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Pros

  • Initially quieter than the competition
  • Compact size with integrated cord storage

Cons

  • Only includes one valve adaptor
  • Needs a hefty cooldown if inflating multiple boards

The iRocker iSup pump follows a similar theme to many on this list, offering automatic shut-off at the desired pressure. It uses a cigarette lighter or alligator clips for power and iRocker offers an external battery pack for off-grid inflation.

We did notice that the iRocker was noticeably quieter in the initial phases of inflation than the others on test, but when the second phase of inflation kicked in it was equally as noisy as the others. 

The iRocker doesn’t come with a fleet of adaptors like the others, so be sure to check your board uses a Halkey Roberts valve.

SeamaxThe best electric pumps: product photo 3

Seamax SUP20D

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Pros

  • Speedy inflation
  • Host of different valve adaptors included
  • Thermal cut-out to protect from heat damage

Cons

  • Handle makes packing difficult
  • Accessories feel cheap

The Seamax is the most sturdy feeling pump we’ve had on test thanks to its marine grade ABS housing. It immediately struck us as a product with the weight and heft to last a good few years. 

It also comes with a number of different valve adaptors, so there’s every chance this pump could outlast your board, even if it uses a different valve. The design might make it a little challenging pack into a bag, as it features a large, protracting handle, In fact, it’s fairly bulky full stop.

This two stage pump will inflate a board to a maximum of 20psi and auto shut-off when the pressure is reached. The Seamax also incorporates a thermal cut off feature to prevent damage to the internals should things get a little toasty.

SevylorThe best electric pumps: product photo 4

Sevylor SUP and Water Sports Pump

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Pros

  • Cheapest pump on test
  • Inflates board to 15psi very quickly

Cons

  • Questionable durability
  • Can only inflate to 15psi

Despire other pumps on this list offering multi-use properties, the Sevylor is the only pump in our guide that isn’t primarily designed for iSUPs, as it can be used to inflate airbeds, boats and numerous other inflatables.

Having said that, it inflated our board up to 15psi in a flash, by far the fastest on test. One downside, however, was its maximum pressure - the Sevylor only inflated up to 15psi, which will prove adequate for lighter paddlers, but most will want a bit more stiffness underfoot.

The pump was also a lot louder than the others on test, but it did feature an automatic shut-off, so we found the best course of action was to shut the pump in the car with the hose trailing out towards the board to keep the noise down and fellow early morning paddlers from complaining.

iRockerThe best electric pumps: lifestyle photo 6

What to look for in an electric pump for inflatable paddle boards

Valve compatibility

The majority of the pumps on test come with a range of adaptors that can be used for a host of other inflation duties, from airbeds to kid’s toys. 

The iRocker was the only pump that didn’t come with extra adaptors, so that might be a limiting factor if you’re looking to inflate boards with different valves. Also, most inflatable paddle boards and many kayaks use a Halkey Roberts valve, so make sure the ump is compatible with this.

Two-phase inflation

Inflating a paddle board isn’t as simple as forcing as much air in as possible, due to the huge volume required, but also because of the lofty pressures required in modern boards and kayaks.

You’ll find that when using a manual pump, the initial phases of inflation use the dual action setting to shift as much air as possible, but that quickly becomes very hard work as the pressure builds. 

Flicking over to single action means you can push the volume of air to a higher pressure, but in smaller increments. The same happens with electric counterparts, as they actually use two pumps: one high volume/low pressure for the first part, then a low volume/high pressure pump to get the board to the desired pressure. 

Automated shut-off

All of the pumps on this feature an automatic shut-off, so you can set the pressure and then sip your coffee while you wait for the board to inflate, without needing to constantly check the pressure levels.

Automatic deflation

Rolling up the board at the end of a paddle is made much easier when there’s no air left inside. All of the pumps highlighted here, besides the Sevylor, offer a deflation mode, which sucks the air out to make packing it up easier. 

Power source

The 12v cigarette socket is ubiquitous in almost every car these days, which is the perfect power source for these pumps. But a few of the models on test also come with alligator clips to connect the pump directly to the car battery. 

If you need to inflate away from the car, some manufactures offer a battery pack for their pumps, which frees you from the constraints of the vehicle

Writing by Matt Buckley. Editing by Leon Poultney.